Sunday, March 24, 2013
For me, Spring has arrived when the grass begins to grow again. It greens up and almost overnight seems to go from hunkering down for winter storms and cold snaps to reaching mightily for the sun. It means we'll probably see cows at the house soon, since there's something for them to eat! It means we'll soon have just-fledged young chickens out stretching their legs and grazing, and happy hens clucking about making mazes in the grass (hopefully NOT hiding eggs--last year's Easter spent on a real egg hunt was enough for me).
This year we have a new way to enjoy the growth of grass--through Kevi's eyes. He's finally past the obsession with putting everything in his mouth, so I feel comfortable setting him on the ground outside. We still mostly do chores in the jogging stroller, which he thinks is a great way to tour the farm, but I decided to let him explore the new grass while I put up one of our electric nets that will soon house chickens. He was delighted by the new environment, as you can see.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Friday, January 11, 2013
This is really more of a note than a blog post, but I think it's worth sharing. One of Joel Salatin's favorite concepts is to "let the animals do the work." In practice, at Polyface and at Early Bird Ranch this typically means things like hens following cows and reducing fly load by scratching through cow patties to eat the larva. Instead of having to apply some kind of fly deterent to the cows, we let the hens do that service, saving Joel or the folks at LeftCoast GrassFed a little work.
Today I saw a great example here at the house, though. Kevin, Brooks, and I have been working hard clearing compost out of the brooders and dumping it in wheelbarrow piles in the garden. I just looked out the window to discover that some rogue hens (who refuse to sleep in the Eggmobile and are generally a pain in the butt) are trying to redeem themselves by scratching the compost evenly through the garden soil. In the picture, you can see the piles we left, and how they're spreading it in an even layer, saving us the time and energy of raking it out ourselves. So, although I grumble to say it... Thank you rogue chickens!
Friday, January 4, 2013
|Please ignore all the STUFF in our lives!|
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
We're back. I promise! And although we're a little late, I thought we could relaunch the Early Bird Ranch blog with a posting of things we are thankful for, because right now they are many!
First, we are thankful to live in a farm community that supports each other. We've been working with a number of other local farms, including Harley Goat Farm, Blue House Farm, Flygirl Farm, 5th Crow Farm, Pie Ranch, Markegard Family Grassfed, and Fat Cabbage, plus, of course, Left Coast Grassfed. It's a real blessing to feel connected to other farms and to develop a network of interdependence. Farming is not a lifestyle that thrives on isolation--and we're lucky to have such great neighbors for shared sales opportunities, "recycled" food streams for our pigs, companionship, inspiration, and baby-loving. Here's a picture of our hens greatly appreciating some Blue House Farm greens!
|Grandma helps Kevi clean a pumpkin!|
Third, we are thankful for the chance to raise our son on the farm. Every day I'm struck by how even at this young age his life is shaped by our choice to be on the farm. Already he is enamored with the animals and has shown a tremendous amount of patience, curiosity, and enthusiasm for this life. He loves to simply watch the hens going about their business, and often we can calm his crying by taking him to the window and pointing out a rogue, escaped hen (about the only time I'm thankful for rogue hens, trust me!). Here he is with possibly his favorite of the farm's animals, Gus--our half Pyrenees, quarter Akbash, quarter Anatolian puppy. If you're not sure what that means, I feel all I need to say is that in this picture he's only 6 months old...
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Now where did I leave off in our exciting saga? I believe a little baby had joined the farm and we were just starting to get some eggs from our hens. Well, I fear I’ll have to skip a few chapters because Kevi Jr. is now 3 months old, 16 pounds, and wearing clothes that are made for 6-9 month-olds, and our little batch of laying hens are producing 240-260 eggs each day!
It is a great time to be on the farm. We are coming up on our 1-year anniversary of moving to TomKat Ranch and already we are maturing enterprises we weren’t expecting to even begin until our third or even our fifth year. The pigs are thriving in their rapid rotations through the forest and this next batch we are processing is right now gorging themselves on the wild blackberries and strawberries that are ripening all over the place.
As for outside space, these girls are given limitless paddocks. That’s right, in order to let them do their job of gobbling up all the bugs they can find, we let them roam completely uninhibited. The girls absolutely love it and every night dutifully return home to by sunset so we can close them in their house and move them to their next paddock in the morning. It’s simply amazing!
Kevi Jr. is starting to use his voice more too, which brings us a great deal of entertainment and joy. The squeals and half words are adorable, but we are most struck but how he mimics the rhythm of a conversation, waiting until we reply to say anything else.
It’s looking like 2012 will be quite a great year. We’ll do our best to keep you all in the loop!
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Another guest post from ShaeLynn...
My first Mother’s Day weekend as a mother has been very special, thanks to several surprises Kevin Sr (including a nostalgic breakfast, gorgeous roses, a copy of my favorite movie, and a series of photos showing my transition to being a mom). But I want to spend a little time talking about OUR mothers, in part because I think I appreciate them even more than I did before I was a mother myself, and in part because they’re just awesome!
Both moms (grandmas!) have come to stay with us and help out since Kevin Jr. was born. My mom offered magnificent, unconditional support during my homebirth and for weeks afterward. I was astonished that she completely put everything in her life on hold so that she could spend extra days helping us when my midwife recommended what amounted to bed rest for me. She even let me bring the baby out at 5 in the morning so I could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, and diligently worked to learn the origami-like cloth diaper folds!
After 5 days on our own, Kevin’s mom came to stay for 10 days, and brought so much sunshine and energy into our home! She cooked Kevin his favorite meals from his childhood, held the baby during every meal so I could eat without interruption (EVERY MEAL!), and added charming little design touches all over our farm, making it a happier place to work and live.
But beyond how much help these two remarkable women have been since we became parents, they both strongly influenced our willingness and confidence in starting our own business. Kevin grew up with his mom’s small business—she was a professional muralist in Hawai’i, and a costume designer for one of the largest theaters on the islands. As Kevin has said again and again seeing her bravery to forge out on her own to make her passion into her business gave him a great deal of strength and inspiration for starting Early Bird Ranch. Similarly, every time she visits I see where Kevin gets his beloved extroversion and desire to truly know and befriend every customer.
My mother worked as a university pre-school teacher/director, overseeing a classroom that could serve as many as 60 families a year. I grew up watching her design staffing charts, consider how to interact with challenging parents or student employees, and plan out and design intricate and fascinating lessons and activities on a slim budget. From my mother I learned the importance of economy of time and money, and how important planning and organizing are to this goal. Clearly these skills and priorities are priceless in a business where we strive to provide food at its least expensive real cost, and to make it affordable to as many families as possible.
My mom may not realize that she gave me my first real lesson on running a small business, but in part it’s memories like these that make me feel confident about my future goal to homeschool (I was not, but my mom would have been terrific at it!). In my Junior year of high school, I joined the orchestra and made plans to travel to London for a music festival and a week of tourism. The price tag attached to this trip was $1300. It was not in my parents’ budget to just fork this over, and I think it would have done me a huge disservice had they done so. Instead, mom and I sat down in September and considered how much money was in my savings account, how much I could responsibly invest in this trip, how much I could expect to add if I didn’t spend any birthday or Christmas money, and how much was left to raise. Then, perhaps not realizing what an enormous undertaking this would become, she gamely suggested that we do a fundraiser—we had just perfected our family’s favorite apple pie, so why not make them as Thanksgiving take-and-bake pies for friends and family? We went to the grocery store and scoped out the price of the competition, added up all the costs associated with the project (she donated her labor, as did I), and came up with a price that would get me closer to my goal. She cajoled a family friend into letting us climb to the top of her 50 year old apple tree to collect fruit their family wouldn’t typically bother to get, and we increased our margins with free apples. The week before Thanksgiving we made dozens of pies, which raised hundreds of dollars towards my trip, and if I recall correctly, mom eventually covered the costs of ingredients to get me even closer to my goal. If Early Bird Ranch was going to make pies, this is exactly how we would do it. And 8 years before I began my own business, my mother showed me how it was done. No textbook could have prepared me better for grasping the fundamentals of running a small business! Thank you, Mom!
|Tutu, Grandma, and baby Kevin at 3 days old.|
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there investing the kind of time and love that our mothers invested in us. You deserve the recognition and adoration of your families and communities for the work that you do, and I hope to one day count myself in your ranks!